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Schmaltz looking to have bigger impact with Blackhawks

Forward to attend tuneup camp to increase speed, strength

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Nick Schmaltz is ready to take the next step in his game.

The 22-year-old solidified his place as the Chicago Blackhawks' second-line center last season and wants to build off the chemistry he and right wing Patrick Kane developed.

"I got on the ice about two or three weeks ago," Schmaltz said at the Chicago Pro Hockey League on Wednesday. "We'll get back into it here and I'll start cranking it up the next couple of weeks. I'm just trying to get stronger and get ready for a big season here."

Schmaltz had a strong second NHL season, scoring 52 points (21 goals, 31 assists) in 78 games. But to improve, Schmaltz will likely go back to the Darryl Belfry Florida Tactics and Tuneup Camp in August. Schmaltz and Kane worked together at Belfry's camp last summer.

"It really got me ready," Schmaltz said. "He teaches some things you normally don't think about that make a big difference, so I'm all in for that stuff."

Schmaltz said his biggest goal this season is to be more consistent and have a stronger 200-foot game.

"Bringing it every night the same way. That's what the best guys in the League do. They do it for 82 games," he said. "That's my next step, making sure I'm playing hard away from the puck every game. My offensive skill will take care of itself with the numbers, or whatever, the expectations. I'm not too worried about that."

Belfry said for Schmaltz, when playing with Kane, "It's just being able to make plays off the pass. It's an easier part of what you need to be able to do playing with Patrick, being able to do those type of things and playing with speed. [Schmaltz] has a tremendous amount of speed, so we wanted to get him to understand how to use that speed, to create more for himself and others around him. We wanted to dig into some of those concepts."

Belfry said Schmaltz needs to round out his game.

Video: CHI@ANA: DeBrincat feeds Schmaltz for his second

"The hardest part about consistency in the League is staying healthy and not having situations, when you're not healthy, affect the rest of your game," Belfry said. "One of [Schmaltz's] best assets is his skating ability, so if he runs into any trouble that relates to his skating, the next step for him is to be able to add other aspects to his game that he can leverage while his best asset isn't at its best."

The Blackhawks were 33-39-10 last season, 19 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, and missed the postseason for the first time since 2007-08. 

General manager Stan Bowman said last week he'll be looking at young players like Schmaltz to improve.

"I don't know if you have more accountability or you're a bigger part of the team than the year before, so you want to make sure you do everything in your power to make sure you bring your best every night so it helps the team win," Schmaltz said. "That's the biggest thing, team goals, winning games. Anything I can do on or off the ice to improve a little bit, hopefully will go a long way in the season."

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